Statement on Immigrant Families from Southwest Good Samaritan Ministries
Southwest Good Samaritan Ministries is a Global Ministries Partner at the U.S. Mexico Border.
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
We are living in humble gratitude to God for your outpouring of love and support, concern and compassion. ¡Muchimas Gracias!
Your questions are so good, insightful, and giving. Your desires are so steadfast in love of neighbor.
Over the last 35 years most of the people we serve have come fleeing for their lives. I myself was a political prisoner under Fidel Castro in Cuba. I suffered the conditions of torture on my mind, body, and spirit. I can tell quickly if someone is a real survivor or telling me a “make-believe” story.
The situation in Central America now and for many years is that poverty and wars cause broken relationships and broken families. This causes turning to drugs, gangs, cartels, and a general violence in communities to escape the pain. The violence is visited on all within the community. Few are spared, but some come under intensely cruel violence, torture. Many are killed. Many run in credible fear for their lives.
The governments are unable to control this, and sometimes they are in collusion with the gangs and cartels. Parents are driven to either watch their children starve or be tortured, or seek a better life in the U.S., with or without their children. Children left behind are subject to additional violence and poverty. Having seen this pattern, many parents are compelled to escape with the clothes on their backs and the child they love. Virtually all the women we see have been raped or molested in their home village. The same has happened to many of the men. Almost every single person has been tortured, sometimes by the gangs and the police or army, and again as they drove on to get to the US border to apply for asylum. Scars – physical, mental, and spiritual – abound.
As Disciples of Christ, Southwest Good Samaritan Ministries belongs to a Christian tradition which is committed to using our hearts, our heads, and our bodies to answer God’s call to justice (Micah 6:8). But, what is justice in this situation?
It is not a blanket entry ticket into the United States for everyone. It is our call to justice that families must be kept together, that courts must be properly staffed, that humane conditions are for everyone… every one of God’s children, without exception.
- As Christians first and Americans second, we call on the government to allow legal services, physical and mental health care, and a system of release/parole to all immigrants seeking asylum after an initial hearing.
- Families must be kept together, whether the children are with a parent, sibling, aunt/uncle, trusted friend, or grandparent, to provide appropriate physical care and emotional support to each child. This may only be changed if the person is shown not to be a caretaker, but a trafficker or abuser.
- Elected officials, credentialed journalists, non-profits and churches providing social services and spiritual care should be given access to all immigrants who wish it, after normal background checks.
- All detainees should be provided appropriate clothing for the weather and temperatures between 60˚F and 80˚F should be maintained for sleeping and normal daily activities. Babies and toddlers, and all asylum seekers should be provided clean diapers, undergarments, and clothing.
- All detainees should be given staff, medical and psychological evaluations, and legal services in either their first or second language.
- Both immigrants and their children and staff at all facilities should have the option for spiritual care and mental health care.
- A general rule of kindness and well-being should be present in order to model appropriate behavior and set immigrants on their way to being good citizens.
- When an immigrant claims torture and requests asylum, they should have minimum containment while a mental health assessment is completed, and a report is given to the courts ensuring that they are not malingering.
- No detainee should be over-medicated or denied their medications.
- Appropriate educational, recreational, social, and language activities should be provided to all detainees.
- Where possible, a background check and supporting documents should be used to assist the immigration courts in making just decisions.
- A timeframe not to exceed 20 days in detention for adults together with their minor family members should result in parole, barring a finding for removal for cause, while awaiting further court deliberations or hearing.
- This process should not become a money-making venture for private corporations or government officials, their families, and donors.
- There is a process to ensure that no one is allowed free access to do harm in the U.S., but it means shifting from building walls to building real security with information. It means building relationships that are humane, and not Anti-Human.
Some may say that this is a “cushy deal,” but it isn’t. Detention is still detention, not freedom. And justice requires commitment, not cruelty.
We look forward to meeting with you next week as we respond to this fluid situation together in Brownsville, Texas, near our facilities in Bayview and Los Fresnos. We have been thinking a great deal about this system for many years. We have seen the better and the worse, and now even worse.
We will pray together and work together toward the good for all our brothers and sisters, for the children, in God’s Holy Name. ¡Bienvenidos!
In Gratitude to God for Each of You,
Rev. F. Feliberto Pereira
Founder and Executive Director
Southwest Good Samaritan Ministries